Manning-accused claims confession 'coached'

06:52, Feb 21 2014
Mellory Manning
MALLORY MANNING: Her badly beaten body was found in the Avon River.

The man on trial for the murder of Mellory Manning has told a court that police officers "coached" him into telling them how the Christchurch sex worker was killed.

They offered him protection, a financial reward and to have his bulldog facial tattoo removed, Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, 26, said.

The two officers who made the offers also told him Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald - the first officer to interview Fawcett as a murder suspect - was someone he could trust.

Mauha Huatahi Fawcett
DEFENDING HIMSELF: Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, 26, conducts his own defence in the Christchurch High Court. He denies murdering murdering Ngatai 'Mellory' Manning.

Fawcett had then implicated himself by telling Fitzgerald he had hit Manning with a weapon, the court heard.

Fawcett was first interviewed by police in Nelson in January 2009 and denied all knowledge of Manning's killing on December 18, 2008.

Fitzgerald interviewed him as a suspect on August 10, 2009, in Rotorua.


In the later interview, played to the court today, Fawcett gave a detailed account of how three Mongrel Mob members ahd attacked Manning at the gang pad in Avonside.

Fawcett told Fitzgerald he had been instructed to hit Manning with a pole during the "bloodbath" attack. He had "closed his eyes and hit her".

Fawcett spoke of gang members wanting him to "be involved" in her death and that he was "freaking out" afterwards.

In his first true cross-examination of the trial, Fawcett put it to Fitzgerald that two officers had "softened me up" before the crucial interview.

One officer had "coached me to say what you wanted me to say," Fawcett said to Fitzgerald.

"He offered me the reward and protection from the Mongrel Mob to nark on the Mongrel Mob, and when it wasn't all matching up, you'se (sic) made me implicate myself into this murder which I did not do."

The officers had told him that Fitzgerald was "a good bloke" who "bought big bottles of coke" and that Fawcett could trust him, Fawcett said.

He asked that those interviews also be played to the court, which may now be arranged.

Fitzgerald reminded Fawcett that he had made it clear during his interview that Fawcett was being spoken to "under caution", rather than simply as a source.

At this point, assisting counsel Craig Ruane stepped in.

In the exchange that ensued, Fitzgerald said he had not been aware of the various offers made to Fawcett, but conceded those possibilities "may have been thrown up".

However, Fitzgerald said even had those offers been made, they needed to be seen in the context of that phase of the investigation.

Furthermore, just because someone was being interviewed as a "source" did not mean it was "a free for all to say what you like", he said.

"Any human source who admits to crime or serious crime to any handler will be treated the same as anybody else who admits it," Fizgerald said. 

Fawcett was spoken to by other officers three times between January and August 2009 as a "potential human source", Ruane said.

The latest occasion was on July 28, 2009, when two officers told Fawcett they were going to introduce him to their "big boss, Tom".

"You were described that you were a good bloke, that he could trust you," Ruane said.

Fitzgerald replied: "That's good to hear."

Ruane said: "[They said] that you were the sort of bloke who bought big bottles of coke."

Fitzgerald replied: "If that's in the transcript".

Ruane apologised that it was, joking it was "quite a legacy in the police force".

Fitzgerald said it was important to establish trust so that people talked to police and told the truth.

The officers who interviewed Fawcett as a possible source "had no idea" Fitzgerald would later interview him as a suspect, Fitzgerald said.

The tapes showed that in his confession interview on August 10, Fawcett "clearly understood he was being interviewed under caution", Fitzgerald said.